Will Gholston has played in 136 regular-season games as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, more than any other defensive lineman in franchise history other than Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. Now Gholston will get a chance to pass Sapp on that list, too.
On Thursday, the Buccaneers officially announced the re-signing of Gholston, the ninth-year lineman who had become an unrestricted free agent on March 16. That stretches his tenure as a Buccaneer to a decade after he was originally drafted in the fourth round in 2013. Gholston is the second-longest tenured player on Tampa Bay's 2022 roster after inside linebacker Lavonte David, who is entering his 11th season.
This is the third contract that Gholston has signed with the Buccaneers, after he finished his initial four-year rookie deal in 2016 and subsequently signed a new five-year pact to stick around through 2021. He finished that contract too, which is a relative rarity in the NFL, and has now played in those 136 games with 78 starts plus another six contests and one start in the postseason. Sapp played in 140 games for the Buccaneers from 1995 through 2003, the 10th-most by any player in franchise annals.
Gholston has consistently provided value for the Buccaneers in a variety of different defensive schemes over the past nine seasons but has seen his career rejuvenated in particular with the arrival of Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. A perfect fit as a strongside 3-4 end in Bowles' schemes, Gholston has been a key figure in the Buccaneers' stifling run defense, which has allowed the fewest yards in the NFL over the past three seasons. He also has 8.5 of his career 19.5 sacks over those three campaigns, along with 38 quarterback hits.
In fact, Gholston has been perhaps the Bucs' most underrated pass-rusher over the past two seasons in particular. In 2020, he led Tampa Bay's defense during the regular season with 20 quarterback hits, helping propel the team to the playoffs and an eventual Super Bowl LV championship. Last year, he set a new career high with 4.5 sacks while adding another 17 quarterback hits.
Gholston's decision to return for a 10th season in Tampa and to pursue another championship helps one of the few positions on the Bucs' current depth chart that had grown a bit thin. With Gholston, Ndamukong Suh and Steve McLendon all hitting free agency last week, the Buccaneers had only two defensive linemen under contract who had seen any regular season playing time for them, Vita Vea and Rakeem Nunez-Roches.
Overall in this 136 regular-season games, Gholston has amassed 352 tackles, 19.5 sacks, 54 tackles for loss, 72 quarterback hits, 12 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.